By Roger Lord, redacteur emeritus
Translation: Ruby Harrold-Claesson, attorney at law
Why do Swedish children shout? Why are they so hysterical, so discontented, so badly behaved? The fact that they are different from children in other parts of the world is obvious.
I am having lunch at a place in Gothenburg. It is not because of the sake of the food that I am eating there, it is neither better nor worse than the food in the restaurant close by. It is because of the sign. The sign reads: "Children under ten are not allowed, we do not have a play area."
I just want peace and quiet when I am eating. At other places I turn away at the door if I catch a glimpse of Swedish families with children there.
There are two dominant international guidebooks that many young people use when they travel. One is Lonely Planet and the other is Rough Guide. The latter is more complete, more detailed and its latest edition was published only recently in Scandinavia.
Rough Guide takes pleasure in rating countries. They have a top-ten list and they have a bottom-ten list.
On the top-ten list you will find Gamla Stan (the Old City) and the Ice cave in Joukkasjärvi.
The interesting thing about this new edition is however the bottom-ten list. It has been revised since the previous edition.
Rough Guide's conclusion is that the very worst with Scandinavia is Swedish children. Swedish children are at the top of the bottom list, where you find partying Nordic people on the Finnish ferries further down in the ranking. The Editors write critically that Swedish children in too great numbers behave very badly in public places, "as if they lacked parents to take care of them."
I have made the same observations both at home and abroad. The further south you come, the more obvious the difference. For example, a Greek child can run without shouting hysterically, which a Swedish child obviously cannot do anymore. A Greek child can run and laugh at the same time, while Swedish children when they try to do the same, instead of laughing they scream hysterically. And when they do not get their way they scream hysterically until they get what they want.
The high voice levels at the day care centres have in some places been classed as an employment hazard. But the matter is not being debated, no one asks the given question: "Why do Swedish children scream?"
The absence of the debate may depend on the fact that we do not want to know the answer: "There is something wrong with the kids."
Because, what would we do?
The absence of the debate can just as well depend on the fact that we are not allowed to blame the parents; they work hard and do as much as they can. What we do not think about is that the absence of shame can also be pathological. Shame in itself is nothing negative, it can prevent us from making mistakes.
Time after time we hear alarming reports, children's and young persons' mental health problems are increasing. More resources are demanded for child psychiatry and school nurses. But is the solution really more treatment and more money? Isn't it time that we seriously ask ourselves the question if we no longer really understand the needs of children? And that we should stop believing only the answers that confirm us adults?
Ethnologists have for some time noticed a decisive difference between children in different cultures. In cultures where mother and child live close together, where the child is breast-fed the first two years and is carried close to its mother's body, where they sleep in the same bed, the child seems more harmonious than in other places. A professor of Ethnology in Uppsala (whose name I have forgotten, unfortunately) wrote about this recently in a book. He mentioned the "scream phenomenon" and stated that it wasn't to be found in these cultures. He described also that [children] in southern cultures have constant access to closeness and food. Mother does not feed the child at fixed times, instead the child is fed when it feels for it. In that way the child is never full to overflowing, nor is it ever hungry. A hungry child may perhaps think that its food is finished forever? What do we know, anyway?
Is television responsible for the strange things that are happening here? Only some week ago a Swedish researcher published an alarm report that children under two years of age should not watch television. Their brains become damaged by to many impressions at the same time, which leads to permanently "wrongly connected" brains. How many Swedish parents took that report seriously? How many of them saw the report at all?
Other researchers claim that modern carriages and prams where children sit facing forwards are not good either. The child feels most security when it has eye contact with its parent. What is happening? The sale of "wrong turned" carriages increases most. Doesn't anyone care?
In any case. It is time to find out why the kids are the way they are.
PS You parents who believe that the hotel owner at the charter resort loves your screaming children are completely wrong. What he is wondering most about is how you as parents can stand living with the shame of having such wild children.